Chapter Three: Iikiba’s Secret.
Iikiba walked down the street, umbrella held
over him. He was heading in no particular direction. He was
disappointed that he couldn’t get the recipe, yet at the same time, he
knew that he couldn’t blame Ukyou for her decision. I wish I could
have told her everything, he thought, but she wouldn’t be able to
handle the truth, and it might have spoiled everything.
He looked down the street for an empty lot, wooded area, park or anyplace, which he could set up for the night. He couldn’t see any of those types of places. Instead, there were a lot of cars zooming past, and drivers screaming at him to get out of the middle of the intersection. As a car raced towards him, Iikiba decided that getting off the road would be an excellent idea. He leaped onto the roof of the oncoming car and rebound off it onto the sidewalk, his umbrella held high above him at all times and narrowly missing the spray of water that the passing vehicle created. The last thing that I need right now is to get wet, he thought.
He resumed his search for a campsite. As he walked, he wondered about how he was going to return home. He thought about what he said to Ukyou -- A place far away indeed, he snorted. Then he wondered whether or not his parents sent anyone after him. In a way, he hoped so, even though it was very embarrassing to be taken home like a toddler. But with help, at least he would reach home.
He quickly avoided a splash of water. An old woman was watering the ground before her property. Iikiba cursed. Why the hell is she doing this in the rain? He leaped out the way as more water came towards him, determined to remain dry. But as he landed, he slipped on the wet cement and landed into a puddle, and his reason to stay dry suddenly became moot.
Jiro was running down the street.
“C’mon Oniisan, I want to get to the park before the wind picks up again,” she called out behind her.
“I’m coming!” replied Ryouga.
Jiro listened to the rain as it fell. It hinted at the upcoming breeze.
“Wind’s picking up again.” Then she felt the wind blowing the rain onto her back and soaking her tunic.
“Oniisan, are you all still with me?” When there was no answer, she looked behind her to find Ryouga’s pack and clothes on the ground, the umbrella upside-down and no little black pig in sight.
“Ah, damn,” she muttered to herself, “not again.”
Jakku Mizuno decided to put his hunt for Jiro
on hold as his stomach started to grumble. Damn her!
His raincoat was keeping him dry, but barely, and the cold was getting
to him. He decided to blame Jiro for his present discomfort as well
as the reason he has been forced to chase her for the past five years.
After all, if Jiro hadn’t spilt the bucket, he wouldn’t have had to follow
that stupid law which said that he had to kill her, and he wouldn’t be
standing in the rain right now. Why did you have to drop the sacred
water? I just want to go home. His stomach grumbled again.
Jakku sighed, he hardly had enough money on him to buy food, and his supplies
were practically gone. He had no idea on how he was going to get
the funds to feed himself.
He looked down the sidewalk and saw a backpack in the middle of a puddle. I wonder if it belongs to that Hibiki guy that Jiro’s travelling with. With the rain coming down as hard as it was, it would be no surprise if the guy shifted into his Jusenkyou form and got lost immediately afterwards.
With his education of water, he has been instructed in the knowledge about the various forms of water-spells, enchantments and curses, but Jakku always believed that the Jusenkyou curses were a myth, until Jiro started following the guy with no sense of direction. Then he saw what water could do to such an individual.
He reached the backpack and saw a pile of clothes and umbrella next to it. The clothes weren’t yellow and green like he expected, but red and grey. Oh well, thought Jakku, Finders-Keepers. He reached into the pocket of the pants and pulled out some money. Then he snorted in disgust when he realised that money he was holding was different from any Japanese yen that he knew of. Now what do I do? he wondered. Then he saw the tag on the backpack. It read:
If found (and if you can pick it up), please
return backpack and surrounding articles to :
Ucchan’s Okonomiyaki Restaurant
for one free meal of okonomiyaki,
the best in Japan!
Jakku grinned. At least that’s something. He knew where the restaurant was and that the food there was extremely good. He won’t starve tonight, providing he could get the backpack and other stuff to the restaurant on time before it closes. He picked up, grunting under the weight, grabbed the clothes and umbrella and started walking towards Ucchan’s.
Ranma-chan sighed. She was presently
hiding from the wrath of Akane and her Mallet of Justice in a nearby alley.
do these things always happen to me? She had not forgotten that
she avoided dinner, insulted Akane and her cooking. But as far as
she was concerned, Ranma’s fiancée attacked her for no reason.
“Stupid Tomboy,” she muttered.
As if in response to her comment, a force crashed into her stomach like a thrown bowling ball. Ranma lost her footing and crashed to the ground. She sat stunned for a moment then looked down at the small black pig that had just bowled into her. Then she grabbed him by the yellow and black bandanna around his neck and gave him a shake.
“Ryouga! Why the hell did you do that for?”
P-chan squealed angrily while squirming in Ranma’s grasp trying to scratch her with his hooves.
Ranma gave the pig a dirty look.
“Look,” she said. “It ain’t my fault that Akane can’t take any constructive criticism.” In response, P-chan squealed some more. Ranma thought about something for a moment, then re-addressed the pig in a more reasonable tone.
“Listen, I gotta ask you something about that guy at Ucchan’s, y’know, the brown-hair one with the umbrella and spatulas.”
P-chan stopped squirming and looked back at Ranma-chan.
“I’ve seen him before, I know I have, I just can’t place him.” She turned and started to head towards the dojo.
Ukyou was just about to lock up for the night.
The police had already come and removed the hanging thug just a little
while ago, and the last customer had just left. But when she reached
the newly fixed door, she was surprised by a hulking silhouette stepping
into the shop. However, when the figure stepped through the threshold
and into the light, he turned out to be Jakku Mizuno with an extra backpack
and umbrella that looked familiar.
“Sorry Sugar, I’m just closing,” she said to him.
“Wait, Kuonji-san, I have this,” he gestured to the backpack.
“It’s nice, Sugar, but it ain’t mine.”
“I know,” Jakku dropped the pack onto the floor. “But look at this.” He held out the tag that was fastened to one of the zippers.
Ukyou recognised the umbrella and backpack as Iikiba’s. Then she read the tag.
“...For one free meal of okonomiyaki ... Why that JACKASS! I’m going to kill that jerk!”
Jakku’s face fell.
“Does this mean I won’t get the okonomiyaki?” he asked.
Ukyou snapped out of her ranting and looked at him.
“Of course you will,” she said. “Just because I’m furious at Iikiba-san doesn’t mean I’m gonna let a stupid tag make me a liar. I’ll give you the meal and make him pay for it!”
She closed the door to make sure that there won’t be anyone else coming in, then she made the okonomiyaki. She slid it onto a plate and set it in front of Jakku.
“Thanks,” he replied as he started to dig in.
While Jakku was eating, Ukyou was trying to get Iikiba’s pack onto one of the few tables so she could sweep the floor. She was amazed at how heavy the backpack was. What does this guy keep in this thing? Boulders?
“Kuonji-san?” Jakku interrupted her thoughts.
“Could you tell me which way Jiro went?”
“Sorry, no.” She managed to shove the pack onto the table.
“How about which way Hibiki-san went.”
“Uh-uh, Sugar, you’re not tricking me into telling you that. You’re a nice guy, but this obsession with trying to kill Jiro-chan has got to stop.” Ukyou grabbed a broom and started to sweep.
“Believe me, I wish I could.”
He finished his meal and pushed his plate away.
“Thank-you, Kuonji-san, for giving me this meal even with the misunderstanding.”
“No problem, Sugar. You take care.”
The rookie was checking to see if the koban
was in respectable shape before his shift was done for the night.
He still had an hour or so to go but tidiness was a trademark of the Tokyo
police. He was shaken by the weirdness that he encountered during
the day and it would be a relief to go home to his wife and a home-cooked
meal. That, at least, was normal: his normal wife in a normal place
doing normal things. No more weird martial-artists, lost boys, or
other such nonsense.
He sighed. Unfortunately, he would be back at this post in the morning. He reverently wished, again, that Sergeant Yamato hadn’t broken his leg. The story that the senior officer gave involved an old man, a bag of women’s undergarments, a few bombs and a falling telephone pole. The rookie wasn’t sure if he believed the story or not.
According to the old sergeant, bruises and fractures were part of the Furinkan patrol. That was why the hazard pay was so high. But the posting did have its perks. Yamato-san boasted that in the town of Furinkan, a spectator could witness the best display of martial arts, in all its glory and diversity, to be seen outside of a Jackie Chan film. The rookie sighed again. He didn’t get a chance to see any of the battles that are said to occur in his patrol. Instead, he had to direct people to their destinations.
He was interrupted out his musings by the sound of someone clearing their throat.
He turned to see a fourteen-year-old girl staring at him. He groaned inwardly. Not another weirdo ...
The girl in front of him was wearing a bright yellow wrap, and brown tights. On her feet were soft martial-artist shoes with buckles and she wore a bandoleer around her chest. Her long black hair was in pigtails and kept behind her ears by a plain yellow bandanna. She was soaked through. What surprised him was the oversized spatula on her back. It looked sharp, like it could be used as a dangerous weapon.
“I’m looking for my brother,” she said. “He’s sixteen, carrying a large backpack, red umbrella...”
The rookie interrupted.
“Red bandanna, or yellow and black?”
Ukyou had finished sweeping. She sat
down at the table and look glumly at Iikiba’s backpack. She knew
that she should be doing her homework, but she couldn’t bring herself to
do it yet. She was too busy being pissed off and confused at the
strange boy. She stared at the tag tied onto the zipper.
I don’t get it, she thought. He’s got to be hiding something. Yet the tag says that my okonomiyaki is the best in Japan. What is his angle?
She looked at the backpack again. Then she looked at the clothes and umbrella. Then something occurred to her.
Iikiba’s backpack holds the truth about Iikiba, she thought. There’s probably something in that heavy thing that will tell me if he’s telling the truth. However, she realised, that would be trespassing against his privacy. Besides, she had homework to do. The last thing that she wanted to do was to leave it until the last minute on Monday morning, not get it done because of the breakfast crowd and piss off Hinako-sensei -- she just wouldn’t be able to handle the punishment that the diminutive teacher would dish out. She got up and went to get her homework.
Akane was at the gate of the Tendou dojo, waiting
for Ranma to show up. She was very, very unhappy.
“I’m gonna kill that jerk!” she growled softly to herself. She was holding her mallet in a tight grip, tensed to strike at the individual that deserved her wrath.
“The nerve of that jerk! First he’s hanging all over Ukyou, then he insults my cooking, and now he won’t take his punishment like the man he says he is.”
She saw a movement out of the corner of her eye. She raised her mallet. She tensed up, waiting for Ranma to show his face.
A small black piglet turned the corner. All of the anger and tenseness ran out of her.
“Ooh, P-chan! Where have you been?” Akane dropped the mallet in her rush to scoop up the piglet. She barely noticed that the bandanna that the pig was wearing was different.
Ukyou stared at the trigonometry problem before
her. It sat in front of her, refusing to solve itself for her.
Normally, she would have no problem with math, but she just couldn’t focus
on it. She looked towards Iikiba’s pack, now resting against the
wall. She was really curious about what was inside. Then she
guiltily turned back to her trig problem and sighed.
She started to work it out, when she smelled something ... well, funky . She looked around and her eyes rested on the pile of damp clothes that Jakku brought in with the backpack. She decided that she ought to hang the clothes up to dry proper so that the musty smell could go away. She got up from the table that she was working at and walked towards the offending pile. She wondered if Iikiba was walking around naked in Nerima. She picked up the red tank top, wrung it out into a bucket and hung it over a chair to dry. She wrung out the socks as well.
As she picked up the pants, a whole bunch of stuff fell out of the pockets and onto the floor. This included a bunch of that strange money that Iikiba was going to pay for his meal with, some of those small spatulas and a wallet.
Ukyou froze. She stared at the wallet. Then she proceeded to wring out the pants, and hang them on the chair, all the while she was staring at the wallet. Her conscience and curiosity was warring inside her. She needed to know Iikiba’s secret, yet she knew that she should mind her own business.
The internal struggle went on for about a minute.
Curiosity won out.
Ukyou brought the wallet back to the table with her homework on it. She pushed the annoying trig problem out of her way. She opened the wallet and started to look for ID.
She found it and read the name at the top.
Name: Hibiki Iikiba
She laughed. Somehow, I am not surprised
in the least, she thought, remembering Iikiba’s directional problem.
I wonder why he wouldn’t admit it though.
She looked at the card again and continued to read it.
The identification read as followed:
Name: Hibiki Iikiba
DOB: 10th Month, 16th Day, Year 2001
Ukyou stared at the card in shock. That
can’t be right … Iikiba was born five years from now? He’s
from the future? She took a deep breath and proceeded to read
the rest of the card.
The address was identical to that of her restaurant.
She couldn’t believe it.
She looked for other ID to see if they were all consistent.
She found a school ID that listed Iikiba as a member of Furinkan High School for the year of 2017.
She then remembered the conversation between Jiro, Ryouga and Iikiba from earlier.
Jiro had asked the boy his name.
“Hii ...ah, Iikiba, I’m Iikiba,” he replied.
“As in literally “good fangs”, like Oniisan’s name, huh? His name means “good fangs” and your name really is “good fangs”! That is really cool!”
“Your family name wouldn’t be Hibiki by any chance, would it?” asked Jiro.
“Ah...” Iikiba started to blush.
“Leave him alone Jiro! I don’t have a cousin named Iikiba.” Ryouga was just as red-faced.
Jiro looked hurt. Tears started to fill up in her eyes.
“Jiro, I’m sorry. It’s just that I have never heard about having a cousin with the same uh, problem that I do. I didn’t mean to yell.” Ryouga was stammering his apology.
“But I thought it was possible ... with the similarities that both of you have...” she sniffled.
Iikiba interrupted her.
“I understand, Jiro-san, but I’m not you brother’s cousin. Though I understand how you would think so.”
Ukyou figured that what Iikiba said was weird.
She was figuring things out in her mind.
He is a Hibiki but not Ryouga’s cousin. And if he’s from the future, like this card says, could that mean that he might be Ryouga’s son? That would be wild. It was possible, she figured, after all, they both have practically the same name, both were spelled almost identically in kanji, except in Iikiba’s name, there was an extra hiragana “i” between “yoi” (good) and “kiba” (fang) which composed both of the boys’ names. They even had the ‘good fangs’ that they were both named after.
She also remembered what Iikiba said after Ryouga complemented his umbrella.
Iikiba was struggling with a broken strap,
which secured his umbrella to his backpack.
Ryouga was looking at the umbrella. It was western styled, same as Jiro’s except for the colour.
“Nice umbrella,” he commented.
“Thanks,” replied the boy. “It’s a gift from my aunt.”
Ukyou thought about it a little harder.
Iikiba’s umbrella was almost identical to Jiro’s. Except that hers
was blue and his was red. And Iikiba said that his aunt gave him his umbrella.
So if I am right and Iikiba is Ryouga’s son, I guess that would make Jiro his aunt. She was very proud of her deduction. But who would his mother be then? She looked towards the backpack again. If Iikiba’s like Ryouga, then he probably would have pieces of his life in that huge pack of his, wouldn’t he? Then she remembered her homework. Her trigonometry problem simply lay on the table unobtrusive, unthreatening and unfinished.
She sighed. Homework first, Ukyou-girl. And besides, it’s not a good thing to know about the future nor to invade Iikiba’s privacy. She sat down at the table again, and stared at the textbook without seeing it. There was a muffled thump. She looked and saw that the backpack had fallen from its position against the wall onto the floor. She sighed and pushed her trig problem away from her. That damn backpack is calling me. I’ll find time to do this tomorrow. I will! she promised herself.
She stood up, swallowed and proceeded to walk towards the pack. When she reached it, she stopped and looked at it again.
Last chance, Ukyou-girl, she thought. It’s not too late to back out. She nudged the backpack with her toe. Aah, the hell with it. With that she dragged the pack back to the table that she was working at, sat down and opened it up.
The top half of the pack contained camping stuff -- a tent, a portable stove, water bottle, sleeping bag, small pots and pans, dishes, instant noodles and other stuff. She pulled it all out. Underneath that, she found a burgundy-coloured tunic. Ukyou pulled it out and unfolded it. It was longed sleeved and wide-necked with white cuffs. The collar of the tunic fastened in a familiar fashion over the right breast using shiny black snaps. There were snaps on the cuffs as well.
Too familiar to be coincidence, thought Ukyou as she re-folded the tunic, and placed it on the table.
Under the tunic, there was a bandoleer, Ukyou brought it out and examined it. It was almost identical to hers. However, whereas the back of her bandoleer was equipped with small hooks for her to clip on her huge spatula, the one she was examining had hooks of different sizes, one large and one smaller. Ukyou was confused about that for a moment then she figured about it. Of course, she realised, for his umbrella!
Under that was another pair of grey slacks identical to the pair that she was presently drying out. There was a school uniform, a red T-shirt and a pair of overalls. There were also socks, underwear, a pair of pyjamas and towels and washcloths and a pair of white sneakers.
Underneath all that, she then found a miniature photo-album in a zip-lock bag. Her hands shook as she carefully brought it out. This is it! she thought. She opened the bag and brought the album out. Okay, here we go! She took a deep breath and opened the book somewhere in the middle. She looked down at one of the two pictures in front of her.
She looked at the one on the right. In it was a four-year boy with brown hair being held by a young man about twenty-five years old with long black hair tied in a pony-tail. Ukyou admired the appearance of the young man in the photo until she spotted the yellow and black bandanna that he was wearing.
She was shocked back into reality.
That’s Ryouga? She looked again.
Dressed in a simple mustard-yellow long-sleeved shirt and dark-green slacks, Ryouga simply stood smiling in front of the camera, holding his umbrella and the boy. His hazel eyes were bright and full of pride. The happy little boy was wearing a red shirt and overalls. His shaggy bangs were kept out of his eyes with a bright red bandanna. The little boy was holding onto Ryouga’s shirt to keep himself from falling out of Ryouga’s grasp and it looked like he was shouting something. His tiny fangs were clearly visible in the photograph.
So the little guy’s got to be Iikiba. Ukyou grinned to herself. But look at Ryouga ... There’s gonna be one lucky woman in the near future. I hope Ranchan will mature as nicely.
With her curiosity piqued, Ukyou looked at the photograph to the left. The photo was of Akane’s pet pig, P-chan and an even smaller piglet wearing a tiny red bandanna. Ukyou carefully removed the photograph from the book, and looked at the back.
P-chan with Ga-chan was all it said. Ukyou wondered why Iikiba would carry pictures of Akane’s pet pig with him.
Ukyou flipped the page. On the page to the right was a picture of the same brown-hair little boy standing in what appeared to be her kitchen. He was proudly holding out a plate with a tiny but perfect little okonomiyaki on it. The back of the picture read: Iikiba-chan’s first okonomiyaki in a peculiar type of handwriting that was familiar to her.
Why would the little guy be in my kitchen? she mused to herself. Then she figured that if Ryouga was the one travelling with the little guy, he would seek shelter for his son wherever he could.
The picture on the right was of a little girl about three years old with dark hair and teal-coloured eyes. She had a striking resemblance to Ryouga. She was wearing a bright yellow jump-suit and a plain yellow bandanna and she was holding the little pig that was wearing the red bandanna. She was giving the piglet a bear hug and Ga-chan was desperately trying to wiggle his way out.
Yoiko-chan with Ga-chan was what the handwriting said. Ukyou grinned. Who knew that Ryouga had it in him, she thought. Wonder if the mother of these kids is the one taking these pictures ... Whoever she is.
She shut the book and re-opened it on a different page.
The picture that she opened the book to was that of a twelve-year-old Iikiba sparring or fighting with a boy with short red hair of the same age. Iikiba was wearing grey slacks and a plain red T-shirt and he was wielding the same umbrella that she saw him carry earlier. The redhead was dressed in a blue Chinese shirt and jeans. The boy held nothing but looked confident. They were fighting over the Tendou’s koi pond. The other boy’s hand blocked Iikiba’s umbrella, and the other boy’s kick was blocked by Iikiba’s free hand. In the background was a ten-year-old Yoiko sitting with a girl her age with short blue-black hair on top of the wall. Yoiko was wearing a bright yellow wrap and dark brown tights. Her black hair was in two pigtails and secured behind her ears with the yellow bandanna. The other girl, who had reddish brown hair, was wearing a denim skirt and a pale yellow Chinese-inspired shirt. Both girls were cheering the boys on. Sitting on ground was another girl with long brown hair of the same age as the other girls. She was wearing a pink dress and her brown hair was done up in two ponytails on top of her head. In her lap was a six-year-old boy with blond hair dressed in blue. They were also cheering on the combatants.
The back of the picture read as followed: Me and Kanaeda-kun, fighting again -- Yoiko, Ranko-chan, Mizuko-chan and Oyu-chan are watching. It was written in child’s hand.
The picture on the on the other side was of a middle age couple dancing. They danced as if they didn’t know that anyone was watching, let alone taking their picture. The man was tall, and muscular underneath the deep yellow shirt that he was wearing. His thick hair was dark with a touch of grey and cut short. The yellow and black bandanna marked him as Ryouga. The woman was somewhat shorter than he was and her long greying brown hair was pinned up. She wore a simple purple and lavender wrap with black tights. She leaned into the elder Ryouga with a familiarity that could only be acquired by couples that have live and loved each other for a long time.
Tousan and Okaachan dancing. Happy 15th anniversary, Hibiki Ryouga and Ukyou.
“No!” cried out Ukyou. “That can’t be! I’m supposed to marry Ranchan, not Ryouga!”
“You know, it’s considered rude to go through other people’s stuff.”
Ukyou looked up. In the now opened doorway, stood a girl slightly younger that her. Her black hair was tied up in two pigtails and she was wearing a bright yellow wrap, dark brown tights and a plain yellow bandanna. She was wearing a bandoleer with a huge spatula strapped to her back. She was dripping water onto the floor.
“How did you get in here?” asked Ukyou. “The door was locked.”
The girl shrugged. “I used my key.”
Ukyou looked at the girl sadly. She recognised her from the photographs.
“You’re Yoiko-chan, right?”
The girl stared at her, then recognition registered on her face.
“You’re Kaachan!” She grinned, revealing a dainty pair of fangs. “So it’s all right for you to go through Oniichan’s backpack.”
Ukyou winced slightly at this; it was more than sli ghtly awkward for a girl just a couple years younger than her to call her ‘Mommy’.
Yoiko walked towards the chair that Iikiba’s wet clothes were lying on. She touched them and grimaced at the dampness of the articles. She went to the table where the rest of the clothes and other items were. She picked up the burgundy tunic, the grey slacks, clean pair of underwear, socks, the sneakers and a pair of short cords.
“You wouldn’t happen to know where Oniichan went, would you?” she asked as she went into one of the side pockets of the backpack.
“Oniichan?” asked Ukyou. “You mean Iikiba?”
“Yeah, him.” Yoiko pulled out a plastic shopping bag from the backpack and proceeded to put Iikiba’s clothes into it.
“Haven’t got a clue.”
“Oh well.” Yoiko grabbed her brother’s umbrella and walked to the door. “I’ll find him. See you later.” She left the restaurant, locking the door behind her.
Ukyou stared at the closed door for a moment. Then, slowly, deliberately, she closed the photo-album, flipped it over so she could see the cover, opened it to the first page and started going through the photos from the beginning.